Waldo Emerson Boller was born to Daniel J. and Barbara Miller on June 15, 1884 in Washington Township of Johnson County, Iowa. Named after the famous nineteenth century American author, poet, and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Waldo and his brother Ora Francis Boller (nicknamed Frank, born in 1886) grew up together in small farming communities near Deer Creek in Johnson County, and Grinnell, Iowa, before eventually settling down in Wayland, Iowa in Henry County.
Wayland, Iowa at the turn of the century.
July 4th celebration – 1907.
As we mentioned earlier, Waldo and Frank’s father had moved the family to Wayland in 1896 in order to start his new furniture and undertaking business. It would seem from one unique story that we have about brothers Waldo and Frank that they were very good friends as they grew up. In the story told by cousin Glen Miller in the “Deer Creek Story,” Glen mentions his memory of Waldo and Frank’s unique collection of bird eggs. Glen remembers truly admiring the duo’s prized collection, only to find out from my father, George, that on one ominous day “some visiting youngsters had utterly ruined this grand collection!”
Waldo and Frank had another unique honor that came their way….this being a part of Wayland High School’s second high school graduating class. There were a grand total of four students who graduated on May 1, 1903 and Waldo (age 19) & Frank Boller (age 17) comprised half of the class!
Wayland High School’s second graduating class: Frank Boller, Leroy Schantz, Edwin Martin & Waldo Boller with J.W. Purcy, Superintendent. (picture courtesy of the Ann Miller White collection)
Waldo (#2 with glasses) and brother, Frank (#3) with wife Stella (#4) at a Miller family reunion in 1910. Picture is from Glen R. Miller’s book – The Deer Creek Story, page 130.
Frank went on to graduate from college, marrying Wayland native, Stella Wenger in 1909 and then practiced dentistry in the Washington, Iowa area until his death in 1949.
In his obituary, we see that Waldo, on the other hand, “took the State Embalmer’s examination…(and) after receiving his license, he was employed in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, and later associated with his father, D. J. Boller in the embalming and undertaking (and furniture) business (in 1906).”
Olive Alice Hulme (baby) and with her family (middle in back row).
On April 10, 1912 Waldo married Olive Alice Hulme in Wayland. Olive was born on September 16, 1887 and was raised in the home of Hiriam Howard Hulme and Anna Dill. The Hulmes were long-time residents of Henry County, Iowa, with Olive’s father being a cattle farmer on land located south and east of Wayland. The Hulme family was actively involved in Finley Chapel United Methodist Church so when Waldo and Olive were married, not only two people came together, but so did two families with differing religious convictions. For the first time in Our Boller Story, a non-Mennonite had joined the family and while Olive did end up becoming an active member of the newly constructed Mennonite Church in Wayland, the Boller family also actively participated with many Hulme family activities hosted by Finley Chapel.
Waldo’s obituary mentions some other interesting facts… “Mr. Boller served his community as secretary of the Wayland schools, secretary, board member and chairman of the Community Club, etc. From time to time, Mr. Boller held various offices in the Sunday School and in the Mennonite Church. He invariably was a member of the church or civic quartets in which he sang baritone. Waldo was a lover of good music and for many years sold the Victor phonographs (Victrolas) and records (through the furniture store). Through his knowledge of good music many of the best records were made available to this community.”
As a sidebar here, you might like to know that Victrolas were early phonographs made by The Victor Talking Machine Company. These machines had the horn “built-in” (internal) to the cabinet. History shows that while a great deal has been written on the subject of the acoustic phonograph, much has been focused on early Thomas Edison cylinder machines and early external horn manufacturers. While Edison’s phonograph represented the critical development phase of sound reproduction, it was the invention of the internal horn Victrola in 1906 that literally launched the phonograph into millions of homes. No longer was the phonograph a strange machine with a huge horn that stood out so awkwardly in a room; but the new Victrola looked like a piece of furniture that fit perfectly in the parlor. Certainly, Waldo made certain his community of Wayland was up-to-date with this “state of the art” entertainment center.